OPSEU urges Ontario colleges’ striking faculty to reject offer as vote set to begin
Ontario’s 12,000 striking college faculty will begin voting Tuesday on the College Employer Council’s (CEC) latest offer.
The vote was scheduled after talks between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and the CEC broke down early last week.
Details of the employer council’s most recent offer have been published on a website.
According to collegevote.ca, the union representing faculty have agreed to everything except for the language about academic freedom.
The website says the matter has been inaccurately framed as being between the faculty and college management when in reality, the college employer believes stakeholders, such as industry partners and accreditation bodies, should also be involved in setting out requirements for courses and programs.
“If the management decides they want to put all courses online, they could do something like put an entire program online because it might be more cost-effective, it might save more space in the college, then they can do that. Even if the faculty members said, ‘Well no, we don’t think that an entire program should go online. Why don’t we talk about this, why don’t we have a little dialogue about it,’ there’s no language that would ensure that would happen,” said Fanshawe College teacher, Jeff Miles.
The website details agreements between the union and the employer on a number of issues, including increased pay for full-time and part-time faculty, job security, and how they’ll approach incoming fair workplace legislation, but many are still troubled by the issue of precarious work.
“Imagine your enrollment numbers are high, and all of a sudden they say ‘Let’s open up some more seats’ and [faculty says] ‘We don’t have enough professors for all these other areas’ [and they say] ‘We’ll find some, we’ll find some at the end of week one or week two.’ [Faculty ask,] ‘Who did you find?’ [and they say,] ‘I don’t know, somebody that’s never taught here before.’ [Faculty ask,] ‘How are they going to get by a week late?’ [They say,] ‘We’ll give them material from somebody else.’ [Faculty ask,] ‘How well will they know it?’ [They say,] ‘Not very well.'” said Fanshawe College teacher Tony Gremaud.
Gremaud added the current structure allows people who don’t know very much about course materials to come in, and teach.
Despite agreeing on many issues, OPSEU president Smoky Thomas has instructed members to vote “No” to the latest offer, and Miles agrees.
“A lot of the things that we’ve been fighting for over the past four weeks have not been addressed in the current agreement. It’s not a very good offer. I think if faculty did accept this offer, it would be like we went on strike for no reason, ” said Miles.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath paid a visit to the picket lines at Fanshawe College Monday. She said she supports the fight for better jobs.
“When we look at the erosion of the quality of work overall in this province, the last thing we need is the province itself, as a quasi-employer, to make things worse and erode the quality of work at our college institutions,” Horwath said.
“We need to see the province take a leadership role and help the colleges to create an environment where the work is good work, where the students get a good education, and most importantly where we can settle the strike,” she said.
Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews said she is “very, very concerned” about the students who are caught in the middle of a dispute that has “gone on way too long.”
“I am extremely disappointed that the two sides have failed to reach an agreement,” she said Tuesday. “I am extremely disappointed and students are paying the price. That’s just not OK. That’s not fair.”
Matthews said the process of the vote must unfold, and back-to-work legislation is not yet on the table.
“We can’t just introduce back-to-work legislation because we want the strike to end,” she said. “You have to meet a certain threshold and we’re not there.”
The faculty vote is scheduled to begin Tuesday and end Thursday, Nov. 16.
—With files from The Canadian Press, and 980 CFPL’s Liny Lamberink.
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